AwareNow: Issue 28: The Mental Edition

Page 155



A CALLING TO SERVICE, A CALLING TO HEALTH In July 2005, one of my favorite humans died by suicide. One of the most brilliant musicians, kindest souls, and best of friends had succumbed to mental illness at the tender age of 20. I was lost. I was reeling in confusion and pain, and I found myself grappling with questions that seemed to have no answers. “How could he do this?” “Why didn’t he get help?” “How could a mental illness lead to such a drastic, permanent decision?” I was an undergrad studying music at Berklee in Boston, and my understanding of mental health and illness was rudimentary at best; I was left in utter shock that someone I loved so dearly could be gone from a choice that seemed avoidable. Over the next three years, I pursued a career path in songwriting and music and simultaneously was working to grieve my dear friend’s untimely death. In my spare time I found myself writing songs about life, grief, and the wonder of the human experience. I found myself processing the loss of my friend through the experience of music, yet I did not feel myself healing. I stayed awake many nights haunted by the idea that he “chose” this ending. As time progressed I felt called to more deeply explore the world of the mind. Likely in an attempt to understand Kevin, I made the decision to apply to doctoral programs in clinical psychology.

The next six years were defined by study and experiences aimed at learning the nuances of humankind. What I had not realized before beginning, though, was that the core of a doctorate in clinical psychology revolves around better understanding yourself. The program forced my confrontation of past traumas, fears, insecurities and unresolved loss. I was pushed to look at myself in new ways that allowed me to understand the limitless layers I possess. In doing so, I came to also understand the multitude of layers in others. Nothing is as simple as it seems.

As my comprehension of mental illness became more sophisticated and I came to understand the battles my friend was fighting, my compassion and heartache grew tenfold. As I came to understand the limitations of our mental health systems and ways in which so many are failed, my passion for reaching those in need ignited. Kevin had received significant support. He had a loving family and resources and access to care. And yet, still, the beast of mental illness overtook him. I knew by this point my life’s mission would involve connecting with those who are suffering in service of offering hope, guidance and support. I also realized that my own health and wellness depended upon engaging in such meaningful work.

In 2016 I opened my private practice, Gemstone Wellness. I sought clients working through existential worries, fears and challenges, and I found myself continuing to heal along the way. By connecting in authentic, deep and meaningful ways with others, I found and forged my personal path towards contentment and value. 155 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION